Having finished up the text for another book last Friday, I've been happily sitting back and enjoying some gaming without having to worry about documenting my method of play. The first such game I plugged into was the new downloadable Wits and Wagers party game. This XBLA title is a very entertaining trivia game that allows up to six players to play simultaneously. Each game consists of 7 rounds and the questions are all answered by picking a number from a given range: it might be the date Hemingway won a Pulitzer; it might be the number of MVP trophies Wayne Gretzky won; it might be China's literacy rate; or it might be any of the other possible answers to the 700 questions in the game. Once everyone picks their number, the fun really begins. Everyone then places bets on up to two possible answers. Those answeres in the middle of the range are given 2:1 odds and then those on the outer spectrum are given 3:1 and 4:1 odds. Whoever bets on the closest answer without going over wins the round and whoever has the most chips at the end of the match, wins the game.
There are two features that add a very nice extra touch to the gameplay. The first of these is the ability to dance. Every player picks a face from one of several dozen in-game avatar selections and this face gets put onto a 2D puppet figure of sorts on the screen -- shaking the Right Thumbstick makes the puppet dance. Talking into the microphone makes the puppet's mouth open and close. I can't explain why making your puppet avatar dance is funny, but it really is. It adds a childish silliness to playing a trivia game and I would really miss it if it wasn't there. The other feature I'm glad they added was the concept of MVP voting. Players have the chance to vote for who they think the MVP of the match was after the game. Usually most people vote for the winner, but sometimes people vote for who should have won or who perhaps made them laugh, or for some other odd reason. It's a nice touch, and when you play repeat matches with one another you definitely sense a friendly popularity contest arising.
There are two flaws with the game, however. The first, and larger issue, is that the questions repeat way too often. The game comes with 700 questions and downloadable booster packs will eventually be available, but I've already seen a couple of questions more than 4 or more times each and many others at least twice. I've played just 30 games or so (games only take 10-15 minutes) and with just 7 questions per game, there's really no reason for me to be seeing duplicates already. The other issue is that some of the questions haven't been updated since the release of the board game version. Yesterday I was asked two different questions about the Major League's homerun record. Both questions were horribly outdated and didn't even factor Barry Bonds into the equation. I'd be fine with this omission if they were open about excluding those who suffer from gigantism, but I wonder how many other "current events" questions will be outdated.
Neither of these flaws are a deal breaker. If you like trivia games and aren't morally opposed to betting, then I heartily recommend Wits and Wagers. Definitely worth the $10.